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Early Childhood Development in South Africa: Inequality and Opportunity

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Abstract

In South Africa the majority of young children are adversely impacted by a range of social and economic inequalities. Apartheid, along with the resultant socio-economic inequalities, deprived most South African children of their fundamental socio-economic rights, including their right to early education. Global evidence shows early childhood development (ECD) interventions can protect children against the effects of poverty; and that investment in quality ECD programmes for young children has a significant effect on reducing poverty and inequality across society. Currently children in South Africa are exposed to significant variation in the distribution and quality of ECD programmes. This chapter reviews the most up-to-date data on the current inequalities in ECD in South Africa, in relation to age, race, gender, location, and income levels; and examines current provision rates and differences in quality; data which has, up to now, not been synthesised in this way. The chapter explores the consequences of inequality, and why this inequality persists. To bring about equality for young children, a number of government actions are recommended.
... Young children rely on their parents/caregivers to provide for their basic and educational needs and to ensure their optimal growth and development through stable, attentive, responsive, supportive and nurturing care in the early years of their life (World Health Organization et al., 2018). However, various factors often linked to poverty, may prevent parents/caregiver from being able to provide nurturing care and stimulation in the early years (Ashley-Cooper, van Niekerk, & Atmore, 2019;Azzi-Lessing & Schmidt, 2019;Ebrahim, Seleti, & Dawes, 2013;Moore et al., 2015). Further, substance abuse frequently exacerbates matters in this context contributing to disrupted parental care, household conflict, and child neglect (Forray, 2016;Watt et al., 2014). ...
... Children who face these and other similar exposures are therefore dependant on ECD centres which can offer an enriching preschool environment and after school facilities to engage them in activities to promote their development. Indeed, for many children in South Africa, ECD centres have an important role to play in achieving early life milestones and promoting optimal development (Ashley-Cooper et al., 2019;Atmore, 2012). Further ECD centres are considered fundamental in providing the support and resources needed to meet young children's rights to health, proper nutrition, safety, care and education (Ebrahim, Killian, & Rule, 2011). ...
... The ECDPs stated that their work was time consuming and demanding and a lack of steady stipends made it difficult to stay motivated. Factors such as these which compromise staff motivation, dedication and passion for their work, are likely to disrupt interactions between children and their care staff which may jeopardize child outcomes (Ashley-Cooper et al., 2019). While there is increasing attention on ECD and the potential of ECD centres and programmes to promote child development in challenging circumstances, less is known about the experiences of staff who work at these centres and the ways in which they manage daily care. ...
Article
The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of early childhood development (ECD) centre staff in providing care and learning support to children living in a high-risk, low socioeconomic community. We interviewed 14 staff from an ECD centre. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically. We derived four over-arching themes which demonstrated contextual-, parent-, child- and staff-related factors that influenced ECD staff’s daily work experiences. Challenges relating to poverty, violence, trauma, and substance exposure cut across each theme. Providing a safe and nurturing learning place for children was essential to staff and allowed them an opportunity to deal with some challenges. Characteristics of staff such as passion, resourcefulness, and commitment, went a long way in providing motivation to overcome challenges. Finding ways to support ECD staff working in low socioeconomic environments are important avenues for further research to prevent staff burnout, and to promote optimal child development.
... This has become a key feature of the educational research landscape. Recent research includes ideas such as 'schools that work', 'productive forms of school leaderships', a 'culture of resilience', and 'exceptionally good teachers and schools' (van der Berg et al 2011, Fleisch 2008, Jansen and Spaull 2019. Researchers argue that taking into account various measures of poverty and resources, some 30 per cent of the performance of schools remains 'unexplained' and must be based on in-school differences; poverty should not be seen as the binding constraint in preventing equality of educational outcomes (Crouch and Mabogoane 2001). ...
... This approach and position are developed through the numerous research reports and publications, based on a variety of large sets of data, which illuminate a bi-modal distribution of school quality that mirrors the harsh economic reality of South Africa (van der Berg et al 2011, van der Berg, Spaull, et al 2016, Jansen and Spaull 2019, World Bank 2018. The data shows the powerful effects that socio-economic factors have on learning in poor schools, illustrated by the fact that 41 per cent of the variance in the mathematics score and 47 per cent in the reading score are statistically explained by the wealth of the school population (van der Berg and Gustafsson 2019:16). ...
... With the high level of poverty and inequality in South Africa, all the five points identified are relevant to the South Africa education system. Today, more than half (51%) South African youth aged 18 -24 claims they have no money to pay their tuition according to Stats SA, and more than half (55%) South African household are poor (Ashley-Cooper et al. 2019;Walker, 2020), where affording life's basics are hard. In addition to the fact that parents of students enrolled in disadvantaged universities may not have the required experiences or skills to support their children in online learning, students from these universities have access to fewer resources, journal databases, the internet, and other infrastructures and services. ...
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Chapter
This closing chapter offers both a generative synthesis (what do we now know?) as well as a catalytic synthesis (what is to be done?) of the research contributions to this book on education and inequality in South Africa. The key findings confirm the entrenchment of inequalities in South African schools by race and class despite successive waves of policy reform in pursuit of educational equity. Neither of the two main categories of intervention, curriculum coverage and teacher competence, seem to have had any marked effects on closing the gap in learning outcomes between privileged and poor schools. The research presented in this book suggests that considered actions to redress inequality would require a combination of political, policy and planning instruments focused on building the foundations of education in the pre- and primary levels of schooling.
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Available for download at http://nirn.fpg.unc.edu/resources/implementation-research-synthesis-literature
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